Trying to Get It: Thoughts on Understanding the Ferguson, MO Situation

The media has been teasing all day that the jury in the Ferguson, MO, Michael Brown shooting case has reached a decision, but they haven’t said what it is yet. Will they or won’t they indict the police officer who fired the shots? No one knows yet.

What we do know is that people are mobilizing all over the place, fearing the worst. Why wouldn’t they, considering the riots and demonstrations that already happened? People are pleading for peace, and that’s good. Others from within the community are issuing warnings about how things are going to go should the verdict turn out differently than they would like.

It’s easy to imagine something similar to how the Los Angeles African-American community reacted after the Rodney King verdict—looting, burning, beating.

That’s the part I don’t understand, and I would really like to. What goes on in a person’s mind and heart that sacking their own community seems like an effective demonstration? From an “outside” the community perspective, it seems an adult equivalent of a child holding their breath so they can just die instead of giving in to whatever it is.

It’s difficult to imagine the level of frustration a person would have to do to destroy their own homes and businesses.

Certainly, some of it has to be righteous indignation, but I wonder how much more is just people enjoying the carnage, in a manner of speaking?

I don’t know. Is it because I’m white, and haven’t felt the sting of oppression in the same way black people have? Probably many would tell me it was.

People have argued that of course, Officer Wilson was making his story up, and that he killed Mr. Brown out of racism and malice. What if he didn’t, though? What if—as evidence seems to suggest—there is at least some truth to his story? Doesn’t the authorities manufacturing or changing evidence seems just as far-fetched as Wilson actually fighting with Brown and shooting him because he felt his own life was in danger?

Occam’s Razor, folks.

Anyway, there have been witnesses in both “directions,” including several coroner’s reports.

The truth of the situation probably in the end came down to feelings. Wilson felt this, and Brown acted however he did because he felt something else. We may never know.

I certainly don’t have any answers, except to say that everyone has a right to live, and that includes white police officers who fear for their lives. I think it’s unreasonable to tell someone when they should or shouldn’t be afraid, and just because Brown was 18 and unarmed does not mean he was unable to be dangerous.

So I guess we just need to all try and unlearn what we think we already know about people. White or black, we all have much to learn.

I hope this time, things don’t end in more violence. The cycle has to stop eventually, doesn’t it?

Just Walk Away

I went to a smallish party many years ago at a friend’s apartment. There were probably less than ten of us there at the most crowded point, and though pretty much everyone was torn up to some degree, I had the least to drink of the whole crowd because I had to work the next morning at my day job.

I imagine that’s why this girl I didn’t know very well came to me and asked if I could help her friend. I asked where the friend was (who I actually did know a little better, and liked quite a bit), and she led me down a short hallway to a bedroom. She opened the door and then fell flat on the floor, almost like she was trying to “plank.” On a bed in the middle of the room was her friend, obviously also very intoxicated. On each side of her were “men,” and one of them was in the process of removing her shirt.

We exchanged a few words, and then the two men left the room. I got one of the other people at the party to help me to help get the two girls to my car and then after only a single incident of puking (the passenger floor mat was never the same again), we were able to get them home in one piece.

I thought of that night this morning when I read a couple of news stories regarding the former Stanford swimmer who was recently convicted of the rape of an unconscious woman at a party. No one would even know anything about it, had a couple of grad students on bicycles not seen him on top of the woman, and chased him down, tackled him, and held him until police arrived.

He was found guilty on a few of the five counts, and that was good. Then, he was sentenced the other day, and the judge gave him six months, which could actually end up being three, with good behavior. Good behavior. This from a young “man” who, in his own intoxicated state, thought it appropriate to take a woman behind a dumpster so they could “hook up.”

The recent development is that it was discovered a letter was published shortly before the sentencing from the former swimmer’s father, saying how tough things have been on his son because of everything going on. He expressed dismay at the possibility of his son getting several years for “twenty minutes of action.” He tells about the impact the proceedings have had on his son. Never mentioned is the victim.

The son is completely unrepentant, and completely unaccepting of any sort of responsibility for  his actions.

Yet Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky said in handing down the sentence that Turner had no prior criminal history, The San Jose Mercury News reported. Turner, whose character was praised in letters to the judge, plans to start a course for college students on binge drinking culture, and both he and his victim were drunk the night of Jan. 18, 2015, Persky said.

The judge said a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner. Persky doesn’t think Turner’s “lack of complete acquiescence to the verdict should count against him,” he said.”

Turner must register as a sex offender for life and complete three years of probation under the terms of his jail sentence, which as I mentioned before could last just three months.

He is a sex offender. His sentence should have a severe impact.

Here is what I believe the truth to be about that sort of person.

If you, in the course of partying, become intoxicated, you are still responsible for your actions. If you also come across a woman who is likewise inebriated and decide to “hook up,” and that woman becomes unconscious at any point, and you decide to carry on with your hookup, you are a rapist. It’s that simple. It is rape and you are ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag.

Turns out only one of the two people involved knows exactly what was involved, because the other was unconscious. The conscious person may have had his judgment impaired, but that does not change the severity of the actions he chose, impaired or not.  He knows what he did, and didn’t do. He has to live with that.  Could be the sad state of his life is because of guilt, and/or shame. He should be ashamed.

Listen, this kid had the right to legal representation, and the right to defend himself against allegations, true or not. He did that. He was found guilty. His father has the right to speak in his defense, and to bury his head in the sand. But there comes a point when one needs to stop defending the indefensible. And consider that people also have a right to not be raped when they are unconscious.

That’s not just for Mr. Turner, by the way. That’s for anyone who has ever contemplated using someone for their own ends that is incapacitated in any way. That isn’t manly, that’s rape, and you are a felon if you do it. You haven’t accomplished anything if you get away with it. You’ve changed two lives with your crime—yours, and the person you forced yourself on. It isn’t a good thing. One can only hope you one day are made to pay the penalty for what you’ve done.

It is the same for those who use any influence they may have–any sort of power, implied or otherwise–as a means to some sexual end. You deserve what happens to you, whether it be punitive, or legal. You’re guilty, man. And you are a reprehensible individual. Hollywood producer, scout leader, teacher. Whether the object of your desire is an adult or a child, don’t misunderstand what your actions can do, and what they will hopefully one day bring you. Life may not bring legal or financial recompense.

But in your heart, you know what you are and what you’ve done.

This…issue—for want of a better word—makes me angrier than almost anything I can think of. Part of it is my own issues, but also because over the course of the past decade, I have had the chance to get to know many victims of this wretched crime through a ministry I was part of. I know what being victimized does to people, and no one, no one deserves that.

Something that I will probably always struggle with as well–I’m human, with a very flawed human nature–is reconciling the knowledge that Jesus came for unrepentant people as well as repentant ones, and longs for their salvation and redemption as much as anyone else’s. It doesn’t excuse or explain what they’ve done, it just speaks to God’s perfection and our imperfection. No one deserves forgiveness for things like rape, or anything else they’ve done that hurts or victimizes others

Yet it is still available for all.

The college culture of drinking, partying, and hooking up I will save for another post.  For now, let me leave you with a comprehensive list of things that cause rape:

  1. Rapists.

So think about what you’re doing before you do it. You can’t go back, and you can destroy a person just…like…that.

Don’t do it. Be a man and walk away.